Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wednesday, Holy Week: Faithful Witness Doesn't Always Yield Results

"Insults have broken my heart, so that I am in despair. I looked for pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none." - Psalm 69:20

We belong to an age that wants quick results. We want visible productivity, to see with our own eyes what we have made. Instant gratification often creeps itself into our spiritual life. But that is not the way of God's Kingdom. Often our witness for God does not lead to tangible results. Jesus himself died as a failure on the cross, betrayed by friends, handed over by a follower. In his earthly life, Jesus did not see much “success.” Still, the fruitfulness of Jesus’ life is beyond any human measure. As faithful witnesses of Jesus, we have to trust that our lives too will bear fruits, even though we cannot yet see them.

What is important is how well we have tried to love. God will make our love fruitful, whether we see that fruitfulness or not. Just as God raised Jesus from the dead, God will give fruition to our sacrifices.

“Lord, help me to trust in your sanctifying power and not to expect ‘successes in all that I do”

inspired by Henri Nouwen

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tuesday, Holy Week: We All ‘Hand Others Over To Suffering’

“Jesus was troubled in spirit, and testified, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.’ The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant” - John 13:21-22

In Greek, to “betray” means to hand the other over to suffering. Judas’ betrayal handed Jesus over to suffering. Peter’s denial leaves Jesus to suffer alone. In different ways, Judas and Peter are sources of sorrow for Jesus.

The truth is that each of us hands others over to suffering, especially those close to us. Intentionally or unknowingly we betray as Judas or deny as Peter. We overprotect, cling too tightly, or hold unrealistic expectations of people we profess to love. Judas handed Jesus over to suffering partially because he wanted to force Jesus to become a political Messiah; Peter denied knowing Jesus because the cost of such discipleship would be too much for him.

When we are willing to confess that we often hand those we love over to suffering, even against our best intentions, we can experience God’s forgiving love. In turn, we will be more ready to forgive those who, often against their will, are the causes of our pain.

“Lord, help me to understand the ways I may be causing others to suffer.”

inspired by Henri Nouwen

Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday, Holy Week: An Extravagant and Humbled Love

“Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” – John 12:3

Mary demonstrated a love toward Jesus that is uninhibited and breaks social conventions. According to Judas, she used expensive oil costing more than a year’s wage. To him, her dramatic expression is rather wasteful.

Yet, her extravagant act is coupled with a profound humility. She went down on her knees and dried Jesus’ feet with her hair … tenderly. Her unabashed expression of love must have puzzled some people in the room, and made others uncomfortable.

However, Jesus defends her, “Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me” (verses 7-8). He accepted her love, humbly and extravagantly shown.

This Holy Week invites us to enter more deeply the love of God which Mary foreshadows. The readings reveal Jesus who embraces denials and betrayals by his closest friends (tomorrow and Wednesdays); Jesus who humbles himself to wash our feet – the dirtiest part of ourselves (Holy Thursday); Jesus who sacrifices his life on the cross – entering our greatest darkness – to save us (Good Friday); Jesus who calls people to baptism and deeper faith (Holy Saturday); Jesus whose Resurrection brings us to greater hope and trust (Easter Sunday).

It is not easy for many of us to accept a love so lavished and seemingly wasteful. Going to Mass several times this week (especially Thursday–Saturday), praying the Rosary, showing love in quiet and sacrificial ways will help us enter the drama of God’s extravagant and humbled love in Jesus

“Jesus, help me to embrace your passion and your love more fully this week.”

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday: Exercising Compassion

“Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” -Luke 23:34

Jesus was received with joyful praise as He entered into Jerusalem on a humble donkey but it is these same people who would later become His prosecutors and demand His crucifixion. How often do we turn our back to God? Each time we sin, we are turning our back to God and reinforcing His crucifixion yet Jesus still asks God to forgive His persecutors in the same way God forgives us for our sins. Do we willingly offer reconciliation and forgiveness to those who sin against us and even to ourselves?

Jesus reminds us to be aware of the presence of our King in all, even in the form of a donkey, a symbol of the hard working poor. Once we recognize the presence of God in others, we are to carry their cross like Simon of Cyrene. By carrying the cross for others, we are also carrying the cross of Jesus. Through these actions of support and forgiveness, we strengthen our relationship with God, others, and ourselves.

As we begin Holy week, we ask you Lord to keep our hearts at peace in midst of all the challenges. Keep us mindful of the peace and compassion you exercised in your days leading up to the cross.

Are we offering our own sacrifice with humility of spirit in every relationship?

reflected by Greg Lontok

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Saturday, 5th Week: God’s Everlasting Covenant Rests On Unconditional Love

"I will make with them a covenant of peace; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them” – Ez 37:26

When God makes a covenant with us, God says, “I will love you with an everlasting love. I will be faithful to you, even when you run away from me, reject me, or betray me.” In our society we don't speak much about covenants; we speak about contracts. When we make a contract with a person, we say, “I will fulfill my part as long as you fulfill yours. When you don't live up to your promises, I no longer have to live up to mine.” Contracts are often broken because the partners are unwilling or unable to be faithful to their terms.

God did not make a contract with us; God forged a covenant with us, one that is rooted in God’s faithfulness more than ours. Regardless of our infidelity, God keeps God’s promise of everlasting love. And God wants our relationships with one another to reflect that covenant. That is why marriage, friendship, and life in community are all ways to manifest God's faithfulness in our lives together.

O Faithful One, help me to be faithful to all my commitments.

inspired by Henri Nouwen

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday, 5th Week: Our Calling to Give and Receive Consolation

"In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears." - Psalm 18:6

Consolation is a beautiful word. It means "to be" (con-) "with the lonely one" (solus). To offer consolation is one of the most important ways to care, to love. In silence, God is with Jesus, lonely and forsaken on the cross. The Risen Jesus offers consolation to followers who grieve his death.

Life is so full of pain, sadness, and loneliness that we often wonder what we can do to alleviate the immense suffering we see. We can and must offer consolation. We can and must console the young adult who is confused and depressed, the mother who lost her child, the person with AIDS, the family devastated by the earthquake or lost jobs, the soldier who is wounded, the teenager who contemplates suicide, the old man who wonders why he should stay alive.

To console does not mean to take away the pain but rather to be there and say, “You are not alone, I am with you. Together we can carry the burden. Don't be afraid. I am here.” It is to trust that God is present and will give hope somehow. That is consolation. We all need to give it as well as to receive it. That is God’s great gift in Jesus, who is God-with-us-in-suffering. That is our calling.

Lord, who do you call me to console today?

inspired by Henri Nouwen

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thursday, Week 5: I Can't See, But I Will Go Anyway...

“Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.” Psalm 40:8a

Like Mary, when I hear God calling me, I often ask “how can this be?” I perceive holes in the plan and ways for things to fail. When I pray, I want to be able to understand the response. “How can this be?” is my answer to injustices, to what I perceive as obstacles in my work, and to experiences of God’s grace. I always want to understand how and why things happen and get filled with doubt.

At first I thought this Feast of the Annunciation was teaching me to look beyond what I saw to be possible, but I realized that kept the focus on me as well. My response should not be “nothing will be impossible for me when I am attuned to God’s spirit”, but rather “nothing will be impossible for God.”

I pray for the grace to make the words of Mary’s “yes” my own. Mary probably had other ideas about how to be a faithful Jewish girl. She probably did not pray to be challenged and humiliated in the ways that she was- an unplanned pregnancy, a son who challenged the system, and watching her son be killed. When she prayed to be faithful to God’s will, I bet she never imagined what God would ask of her.

The Annunciation reminds me that God may answer my prayers (spoken or unspoken) in ways far beyond anything I could ever imagine. I pray for the courage to say “yes, Lord, I will follow where you lead me,” even into darkness and confusion.

Do I place limits on God’s grace and God’s love?
Do I desire to place myself before God in total freedom for whatever God asks of me?

reflected by Jen Horan

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wednesday, 5th Week: Return Often to God's Word

“If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:31-32

True freedom is the freedom of the children of God. To reach that freedom requires a lifelong discipline since so much in our world militates against it. The political, economic, social, and even religious powers surrounding us all want to keep us in bondage so that we will obey their commands and be dependent on their rewards. This is not their overt message; but in subtle and gradual ways, we are seduced into this bondage.

But the spiritual truth that leads to freedom is the truth that we belong not to the world but to God, whose beloved children we are. By living lives in which we keep returning to that truth in word and deed, we will gradually grow into our true freedom.

What shows that you belong to God, not to the world?

adapted from Henri Nouwen

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tuesday, 5th Week: Living in the Present, Embracing Uncertainties

“The people complained against God and Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert, where there is no food or water? We are disgusted with this wretched food’ - Numbers 21:4-5

Our pilgrimage home to God and to our true selves takes us through the land of uncertainty. Old answers become inadequate before life’s present challenges. Even though past ways of looking at ourselves and relating to others are less than freeing, we prefer their familiarity more than present uncertainties. The certainty they offer is safer than facing our fear of abandonment or fear of the unknown. We are caught between the shackled familiarity of the past and the promised freedom of a greater future. We do not like living with the tension, with uncertainty. We are reluctant to trust further.

Between a certain past and a future not yet known lies the present moment. Before we can move forward, we need to acknowledge our dependence on certainty and our fear of trust. In such vulnerability, we gradually discover the birth of hope within – a confidence rooted and grounded in God’s goodness and care. We find ourselves thirsting for water that gives fuller life and love. We are invited to walk in our present condition, with its unknowns and pregnant possibilities – to live the present questions in order that deeper questions may arise and welcome greater trust.

"Lord, help me to be vulnerable, to trust you, and understand the present uncertainties in my life."

inspired by Henri Nouwen

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Monday, 5th Week: Loving Beyond Judgment

“Jesus said, ‘Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her … Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.’” – John 8:7,11

We are prone to cast stones at another’s weakness. We are quick to condemn and punish in others those weaknesses and failings we dimly see in ourselves. The quicker we judge and convict, the less we are likely to be honest with ourselves and the more likely we are trying to cover our guilt. In groups especially, we give-in to the mob mentality to mask our guilt.

Jesus knows well this dark side of our humanity. Yet, he takes us on as we are. He who is without sin does not judge us as we deserve: “As far as the east is from the west, so far have our sins been removed from us” (Psalm 103:12). He does not downplay the sin. Yet, he sees past it, calling us to greater fidelity, self-acceptance, and love one another in our frailties. If he does not condemn us, then why do we judge? If he is willing to forgive, can we rely on his strength to do likewise?

What aspects of my life am I in need of forgiveness this day? Ask God for this gift. Consider partaking in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Sunday, 5th Week: God, in Jesus, Keeps Promises

“I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land; thus you shall know that I am the LORD. I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD” - Ezekiel 37:14
“And Jesus wept. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him.’” – John 11:35-36

The shortest line in the New Testament, “And Jesus wept,” reveals the humanity and depth of Jesus’ love for his friend Lazarus. He comes “late” to console and to save. “Late” because God’s timing and manner of acting in the world is not determined by our schedule. God’s ways are not our ways. But Jesus keeps his promise. In God’s mysterious time and fashion, Jesus acts decisively. He suffers with and consoles Mary & Martha. He raises Lazarus to new life.

It is not just for Lazarus whom Jesus weeps, he weeps for us. He grieves with us who grieves and shed tears with us who cry. Yet, in solidarity with those who suffer, Jesus acts. The loneliness that comes from being alone is met; the loss of meaning from suffering bears new insight and purpose; new hope arises mysteriously from despair. God in Jesus suffers for us and with us. God keeps promises.

For what do you mourn and weep? Invite Jesus to walk with you.

Reminder – You can look at the daily mass readings at:
(Cycle A has John 11 as the Gospel; for Cycle C’s Gospel, see tomorrow’s reflection)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Saturday, 4th Week: Living Without Prejudices Is difficult

Nicodemus ... asked, "Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?" - John 7:51

One of the hardest spiritual tasks is to live without prejudices. Sometimes we aren't even aware how deeply rooted our prejudices are. We may think that we relate to people who are different than we are in color, religion, sexual orientation, or lifestyle as equals, but in concrete circumstances our spontaneous thought, uncensored words, and knee-jerk reactions often reveal that our prejudices are still there.

Strangers, people different from us, stir up fear, discomfort, suspicion, and hostility. They make us lose our sense of security just by being "other." Only when we fully claim that God loves us in an unconditional way and look at “those other persons” as likewise loved can we begin to discover that the great variety in humanity is an expression of the immense richness of God's heart. Then the need to prejudge people can gradually disappear; or at least its hold on us will lessen. Consequently, we grow in seeing and loving as God sees and loves.

"Lord, make known to me my prejudices and help me to overcome them."

adapted from Henri Nouwen

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday, 4th Week: Radical Trust Opens God’s Plans for Us

“When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.” – Matthew 1:24

Joseph, the husband of Mary. He is a quiet figure in the Gospel, yet not without deep purpose. He could have chosen many different options after learning of Mary’s pregnancy. He still could have chosen many options after seeing the angel in his dream. He must have had plans of his own after becoming betrothed to Mary. There must have been some confusion running through his heart and mind after Mary returned from visiting Elizabeth several months pregnant.

Yet through all of this, Joseph did not react on his emotions or his own will. Instead, he fully and immediately responded to God’s will for him. Without comment, without question, without complaint, without hesitation. He fully trusted without much understanding of the mystery that lay before him. How often in our lives are we so filled with fears, doubts, worries, anxieties when situations arise in our own lives that seem to make little or no sense. We ask God, “Why me?” or just “Why?” Yet perhaps, God has an invitation there for us.

Lord, help me to trust in Your plans for me, to have faith in knowing that You know best, even and especially when I myself cannot fully understand.

reflected by Quyen Nhi Ngo

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thursday, Week 4: Turning to Our True Source of Life

“You search the Scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. But you do not want to come to me to have life.” - John 5:39-40

There are so many things that vie for our attention, that promise happiness, fulfillment, and so on. Whether they be material goods such as cars, clothing, houses, or job positions, or even personal relationships. We may look to these things to define our happiness, our joy, but if something goes wrong with one area, we start to question our entire lives. There is a yearning for something more. Then where does our ultimate fulfillment lie? In the only One that lasts, in Jesus.

Perhaps our prayer lives reflect something similar. How often are we praying, asking God for something, looking for answers in specific places or specific ways, rather than allowing and listening to God answer in His way? There may be conditions that we put on how we want God to be a part of our lives, rather than creating space and being present to Him in all aspects. Simply, to let His will be done in us, so that we truly and fully may have life.

Lord, in what ways are you inviting me to be more open to your life-giving ways today? Help me to see that You are the only true source of life.

reflected by Quyen Nhi Ngo

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wednesday, 4th Week: Our Security Is Rooted In God's Love

"But Zion said, "The Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me." Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you." - Isaiah 49:14-15

We all long for security. Often, we look for a firm security in success, money, friends, ideas, property, popularity, family, connections, insurance, our own strength or resourcefulness and so on. We may like to think that none of these form the basis of our security, but our actions or feelings may tell us otherwise. When we begin to lose our money, our friends, or our popularity, our anxiety often reveals how deeply our sense of security is rooted in these things.

Ignatian spirituality envisions a life of the spirit in which our security is based not in any created things, good as they may be, but in God, who is love everlasting. Such things are helps in our praise, reverence and service of God, in so far as we do not make them the center of our lives. We probably will never be completely free from belonging to such temporal things, but if we want to live in the world in a truly free way, then we are called to let go of such inordinate attachments. Lent is an invitation for a greater “no” to such things and more whole-hearted “yes” to God’s unspeakable love – our true security.

"What did the most recent crisis in your life reveal about the basis for your security? Listen and speak to God about it.”

inspired by Henri Nouwen

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tuesday, 4th Week: Enough Light To Take The Next Step

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the seas; though it's waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult." - Psalm 46:1-3

Often we want to be able to see into the future. We say, "How will next year be for me? Where will be five or ten years from now?" There are no answers to these questions, because all we see is the present. The past is the present remembering. The future is the present anticipating. We only experience the present moment. By experiencing fully each moment, we are living into the unknown future.

Often pain and hardships overshadow the present and its anticipated future. Yet, we are gifted in the present with just enough light to see the next step: what we have to do in the coming hour or the following day. The art of living is to enjoy what we can see and not to get anxious about what remains in the dark. When we are able to take the next step with the trust, that we will have enough light for the step that follows, we can walk through life with joy and be surprised at how far we go. Let us rejoice in the little light we carry and not demand the great beam that would take all shadows away. The spiritual life is taking one step at a time with Jesus - the Light of the World.

"Lord, help me to embrace the gift of the present, give thanks for what I have, and take that next step with You.”

inspired by Henri Nouwen

Monday, March 15, 2010

Monday, 4th Week: Looking for the Signs…

Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” – John 4:23-54

To love someone is to think of that person and we raise our minds to remember the One who loves us most. We establish a loving, familiar God, who holds us in the palm of His gentle hand. It is the practice of the presence of God becoming a habitual state of the soul, an openness to the Divine One who surrounds us in our busy lives.

In moments of suffering, it is difficult to see God in our life. We may ask ourselves, “Where is God?” and “Why me?” We overshadow our situations and feelings. We let go and look at our worries. However, we are not alone, Jesus is struggling with us. Nothing goes unnoticed by Him or His Father. Through Jesus’ spirit who is in all of us, we can hope for peace. We must allow ourselves to become vulnerable and trusting of God to see beyond our troubles.

The goal of prayer is not thoughts about God, but a living, breathing encounter with God. It is freely expressing what has deeply moved us and conveying our genuine need for Him. Through our encounters, relationships and daily interactions, we must look for the signs to allow us to find His presence. It can be a phone call, smile or reassuring embrace…God is everywhere. By seeing with our eyes and ears along with an open heart, there becomes a simplification and familiarity with God. In its simplicity, it brings together life and prayer in one unending conversation.

Lord, I am listening…speak to me.

reflected by Tam Lontok

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday, 4th Week: Becoming A Place to Meet God

Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation … entrusting to us the message of reconciliation [as] ambassadors for Christ ...” - 2 Cor 5:17-19

The word reconciliation literally means "to meet again." The Prodigal father does everything possible so that his two sons would be reconciled - meet again. He leaves the homecoming party for his younger son in order to plead with the older son: "'My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’” (Luke 15: 31-32)

The spiritual life is a coming home to the deepest truth of ourselves as God’s Beloved (see the reflection on March 6, 2010). Moreover, it is a coming home together. We recognize that others, as different or wounded as they are, are likewise God's Beloved. For we belong not only to God, but also to one another.

Mysteriously, God chooses human beings to be the key venue where others can encounter God. For when we care for, accept, or forgive one another, we often experience God's care, acceptance, forgiveness. Without our knowing much of the time, we serve as a bridge, connecting others to God. Despite our limitations, weaknesses, and sins, we are called to become a place where we and others can meet God again.

For much of my life, I've mistakenly thought that forgiveness and reconciliation is an "extra option" of being Christian. Rather, it is essential to the following of Christ. For we are called to come home together. It is not easy to forgive others, to accept forgiveness, or to forgive ourselves. Yet, our hope lies in Christ through whom we are already new creations.

"Lord, who do you invite me 'to meet again'? What aspect of my life needs to be reconciled with you?"

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Saturday, 3rd Week: Grounded and Rooted In Love

“‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ … for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” – Lk 18:13-14

The word “humility” comes from its Latin root “humus” which means “ground” or “dirt.” Whatever humility may mean, it includes the sense of being firmly grounded, of being securely rooted in God’s Love. Saint Teresa of Avila sees humility as accepting the truth about oneself. Accepting the truth about ourselves leads us to two realizations. First, that we are a bound by sinful inclinations: we do not do the things we want to do, yet we do the things we do not want. We are profoundly conflicted and divided within. Second, in crying out to God for mercy and unconditional acceptance, we realize our dignity as Beloved, as prodigal sons and daughters, as those redeemed by Love which embraces and transforms us beyond our sins, inner conflicts, and tendencies toward death. We are continually loved, forgiven, and called into being.

Rooted in Love, we can resist the temptation to let others or our performance determine who we are. We will not cling to the praise and adulation of others or our own sense of accomplishment. Deeply rooted in Love, we can enjoy human praise without being attached to it. We can accept the truth about ourselves with gratitude.

“O Lord, help me to come to a deeper awareness of myself as a sinner, redeemed and Beloved.”

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday, 3rd Week: Being Alone With God

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” - Mark 12:30

Hiddenness is an essential quality of the spiritual life. Solitude, silence, ordinary tasks, simply being with people, sleeping, eating, working, playing are facets of life that Jesus lived and invites us to live. It is in hiddenness that we can find a true intimacy with God and a true love for people. Even during his active ministry, Jesus continued to return to hidden places to be alone with God. If we don't have a hidden life with God, our public life for God cannot bear fruit, just as a fruit tree cannot bear fruits unless its roots are grounded in the earth through hiddenness. Like much of in nature which grows in hiddenness and silence, the human spirit grows in hiddenness and silence.

Solitude allows us to be alone with God. There we experience that we belong not to people, not even to those who love us and care for us, but to God and God alone.

“My soul is at rest in God alone, my salvation comes from God.” (Psalm 62:2)

"Resolve to spend some time today alone with God."

adapted from Henri Nouwen

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thursday, 3rd Week: Emotional Life May Control Spiritual Life

“Oh, that today you would listen to God’s voice! Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your ancestors tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.” - Psalm 95:7-9

Our emotional lives move up and down constantly. Sometimes we experience great mood swings; from excitement to depression, from joy to sorrow, from inner harmony to inner chaos. A little event, a word from someone, a disappointment in work, many things can trigger such mood swings. Mostly we have little control over these changes. It seems that they happen to us rather than being created by us.

So it is important to know that our emotional life is not the same as our spiritual life. Our spiritual life is the life of the Spirit of God within us. As we feel our emotions shift, we must connect our spirits with the Spirit of God and remind ourselves that what we feel is not who we are. We are and remain, whatever our moods, God's beloved children.

Although it is very hard to control our moods, we can gradually overcome them by a well-disciplined spiritual life. This can prevent us from acting out our moods. We might not "feel" like getting up in the morning because we "feel" that life is not worth living, that nobody loves us, and that our work in meaningless. But if we get up anyhow, to spend some time reading the Gospels, praying the Psalms, and thanking God for a new day, our moods may lose their power over us. These spiritual exercises help us to be attentive to and live out of that depth of who we are, beneath the barrage of emotions seem to presently rule us.

"Holy Spirit, help me to achieve the discipline I need for a devout life in God."

adapted from Henri Nouwen

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wednesday, 3rd Week: We Teach Others By Our Actions

"Whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven". – Matthew 5:17-19

There is a saying that gets passed from student to student in medical schools, "see one, do one, teach one". That is, see a technique 1 time and you are ready to do it. Do it 1 time, and you are ready to teach it.

God entrusts us with His commandments: the "techniques" of how to live life fully, as we are meant to live it. He summarizes the lessons down to 2 commandments, making it easy to remember: Love your God. Love your neighbors like yourself.

It may take us our whole life to learn it, these 2 lessons. How are we to teach it to others? Our confidence comes from His love for us. Not like a teacher but like a father is how He guides our halting steps. He takes care of us, as we try to take care of each other.

Letting go of His hands and we will stumble -- falling, and pulling down those who are influenced by us. Whether we want to or not, we are all teachers, influencing friends and strangers by how we live.

Lord, help me to review ... what lesson am I teaching others by my action today?

reflected by Phuong Thanh

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tuesday, 3rd Week: Forgiveness Is The Way To Freedom

"Then Peter came and said to him, "Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times." - Matthew 18:21-22

Community is not possible without the willingness to forgive one another "seventy-seven times." Forgiveness is the cement of community life. Forgiveness holds us together though good times and bad times, and it allows us to grow in mutual love.

To forgive another person from the heart is an act of liberation. We set that person free from the negative bonds that exist between us. We say, "I no longer hold your offense against you." But there is more. We also free ourselves from the burden of being the "offended one." As long as we do not forgive those who have wounded us, we continue to carry the offense as a poison, as a heavy weight. The great temptation is to cling in anger to our enemies and then define ourselves as being offended and wounded by them. Forgiveness, therefore, liberates not only the other but also ourselves. It is the way to the freedom of the children of God.

"What are the grudges you are clinging to? What poison is still infecting you?"

adapted from Henri Nouwen

Monday, March 8, 2010

Monday, 3rd Week: Asking God for What We Truly Need...

"As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?"- Psalm 42:1-2

We ask God for many things, most of which we do not need, many of which we do not we really want. We are often spiritually lazy: we do not allow ourselves proper time and space to sift through our wants to discover what we truly need.

There is a deep longing in each of us “for the living God” – to experience God’s love in real, personal ways. And God will not refuse when we ask with trust. Yet, we do not ask for it earnestly. We reason away: “God already loves me, how dare I ask for it? I am not good enough, not deserving enough, not holy enough. Moreover, it seems selfish to ask for it. What if God refuses?” Yet, when we earnestly and consistently ask for it, we risk trusting God with what we truly need. We also actively let go of anything that keeps us from experiencing God’s deep and personal love for us. Asking for what we truly need makes our hearts tender toward God and lessens our clutter of obstacles that keep us from God’s embrace.

“Lord, help me to risk asking for what I truly need and letting go of whatever that keeps me from you.”

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunday, 3rd Week: The Journey Home Begins Where We Are

“God said, ‘Come no nearer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.’ I am the God of your father,” he continued, “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” – Exodus 3:5-6

Live fully the present moment! While we all find this appealing, many of us usually dwell in the past or worry about the future. It’s very difficult for us to let go of a past mistake or hurt; often we cling nostalgically to the goodness of a past relationship or lifestyle. Thus, we spend much time and energy complaining or comparing. And when planning for the future, as we should, we fret with anxieties and lose sleep because of worries.

Living in the present moment requires of us two disciplines: embracing our vulnerability and acting in trust. Embracing our present condition involves accepting its many unknowns and uncertainties. It can betray our need for certainty or our fear of trust. We are challenged “to let be” the different emotions that flow through us – to listen without judging ourselves to what God may reveal to us through these feelings and inner reactions. As with the burning bush, what we experience currently, however positive or negative, is “holy ground” – where God is present, speaking, and calling us.

Embracing our vulnerability enables us better to ask the question: “What am I going to do now?” That’s what God is about, our next chance to do the right thing. That’s how we know that God is “I am who am.” With God, every new decision is another chance to do the right thing, to love, to trust, to hope. We don’t get that from the other side, which fixates us in fear of repeating past mistakes or paralyzing us with unknown fears. With God, we can take the next step in hope and love, trusting that the next subsequent step will unfold.

We can begin by recalling an experience which grounds us in God’s goodness and care. We can return to a living encounter with God. Then we will have the strength to embrace our vulnerabilities in the present challenges and the grace to take the next step in trust.

"Lord, help me to be vulnerable, to trust you, and understand the present uncertainties in my life."

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Saturday, 2nd Week: Spiritual Homecoming Lies Beyond Self-Rejection

“'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.' But his father ordered his servants,'Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast.” – Luke 15:21-23

The spiritual life is essentially a homecoming. It is a coming home to the deepest truth of ourselves as God’s Beloved. That we belong to God, regardless. Whether we have wandered afar in search of life or love beyond our spiritual home in the boundless heart of God (like the younger son) or have been lost in fear without ever going away (like the older son), God’s unconditional love is offered freely and fully. As the father who rushes out of the house to embrace both the errant younger son and the resentful older son home to the banquet, God yearns for us to rejoice in our dignity as Beloved sons and daughters.

Such homecoming involves a most daunting task: allowing ourselves to be seen as we are, without self-condemnation. While we long for such transparency, we harbor secret thoughts, feelings, and fears. We often think, “If people really know what I think or feel, they would run away.” Those guarded secrets can lead us to self-rejection, depression, and even suicidal thoughts and actions. They are the loud voices within that clamor “what you have done is beyond God’s forgiving love” or “you need to be perfect to deserve such love.” They prevent us from the grateful recognition that we are pure gift and precious in God's eyes.

Our homecoming involves allowing the inner voice of love beyond self-rejection to take hold of us and gift us with the courage to live as God’s Beloved children.

"What keeps you from homecoming? What helps you to realize that you are precious in God's eyes"

inspired by Henri Nouwen

Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday, 2nd Week: Jealousy Betrays Our Belovedness

"Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him. They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him.” – Genesis 37:3-4, 18

Jealousy occurs when a person fears losing a close, self-defining relationship to another, who is often a rival. In the Bible, the older siblings are often jealous of their younger siblings. They resent a younger sibling who seemed more loved by the father. It is true that human parents can show favoritism. Yet, we often project this sentiment into God. We think that there are only a few who are God’s Beloved, and those few do not include us.

What is behind this seductive thinking? It limits God’s love and heart. It yields to the deep fear that we are not holy enough, good enough, deserving enough. Belovedness has nothing to do with our worthiness, sinfulness, frailties, or conduct. It is rooted in God who is extravagant lover, who loves without condition, limit, or end. When we face our jealousy, we unmask our fear and uncover our Belovedness. We become aware that we are precious in God’s eyes, uniquely favored unlike any other person.

Jealousy betrays belief in a God who is too small. Behind jealousy lies our deep longing to become who we already are yet afraid to embrace – God’s Beloved.

"How do you, Lord, look at me? What do you feel in your heart for me?” - John Eagan SJ

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Thursday, 2nd Week: Hoping is Loving in the Moment

“Blessed are they who trust in the LORD, whose hope is the LORD.” – Jeremiah 17:9-10

Optimism and hope are radically different attitudes. Optimism is the expectation that things – the weather, human relationships, the political situation, wars, and so on – will improve. Hope is the trust that God will fulfill God’s promise in a way that leads us to love more deeply and freely. The optimist speaks about changes in the future. The person who hopes lives in the moment and trusts that all of life is in good hands. Optimism is a personality trait; hope is a choice that risks God’s goodness. When we hope, we rely on God’s faithfulness, even though we cannot envision a foreseeable future of optimism.

Hope is essentially an act of faith rooted in love. It involves radical openness and vulnerability to life in the present moment and waiting with endurance, trusting that uncertainty, loneliness, restlessness, loss, confusion, etc… will lead to greater freedom, to a more genuine love. A love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7).

It is not easy to hope when destructive earthquakes ravage our cities and political systems seem to favor special interests of a few rather than the common good for all. But when we hope, we wait in openness for God’s promise to come true, even though we do not know when, where, or how this might happen. We trust in God’s indwelling presence and laboring to bring about good. We embrace ourselves as the Beloved. We love.

"Lord, help me to love more fully today, through moments of hope.”

inspired by Henri Nouwen

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wednesday, 2nd Week: Sorrows and Joys Are Pathways to New Life

"But Jesus answered, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?" – Matthew 20:12

"Are we able to drink the cup?" is a most challenging and radical question we face. The cup is the cup of our humanity – the unique way which we react and respond to people and things. Drinking our cups means allowing persons, things, and events to be, to resonate fully as they are in our lived experience. It involves a consistent openness and vulnerability to life, allowing its full spectrum of sorrows and joys to flow within and over us, without having the control things.

To be honestly and truly ourselves in such an unflinching, undefended way is extremely difficult. We know well the price of such receptive attitudes. Yet, fully drinking the cup of our joys and sorrows becomes a sipping of the cup of salvation. Through his suffering and death, Jesus brings us new life. As we empty our cups to the bottom, we become more united with Christ Crucified while God fills our cups with “water” for eternal life. Our life bears greater meaning; we grow in compassion, especially for ourselves. We not only drink, we grow in intimacy with Jesus. We become the cup of blessing.

"Lord, which sorrows and joys do you I invite me to drink deeply today?”

inspired by Henri Nouwen

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tuesday, 2nd Week: Serving the Least Embraces God’s Reconciling Love

“The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” – Mt 23:12

“Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.” - Is 1:17

Both the Jewish and Christian traditions imagine a God who stands with the poor and the powerless. Jesus shows a clear referential option or love for the poor. Outreach to the marginalized and opposing injustices are not extra expressions of faith, they are integral to our embrace of God’s love.

The Lenten call to repentance consists of reconciliation, a bringing together. Bringing together how we practice and what we preach; closing the gap between “the haves” and the “haves not”; embracing our identity in God’s unconditional love and letting go of a sense of self that comes from possessions, prestige, power, or entitlement; allowing God to heal us and going beyond ourselves to serve the least among us.

While we serve, we realize the Pharisees within each of us: we serve and redress wrong from a place of power and privilege; we “stand over” people; we are often motivated more by the need to be recognized or liked by others than the desire to honor God. At the same time, we realize the call to “stand with” those we serve, to face our illusions of control, to share in our common poverty – our utter need for God’s healing and mercy. Jesus calls us to servant leadership so that we may be embraced by God’s reconciling love as we serve and stand with the poor.

“Lord, help me to concretely embrace your love by standing on the side of the poor and powerless.”

Monday, March 1, 2010

Monday, 2nd Week: Forgiveness - Seeing with God’s Compassion

"Be merciful just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven" - Luke 6:36-37

We are all wounded people. Who wounds us? Often those whom we love and those who love us. When we feel rejected, abandoned, abused, manipulated, or violated, it is mostly by people very close to us: our parents, our friends, our spouses, our lovers, our children, our neighbors, our teachers, our pastors. We too, wound those close to us. That's the tragedy of our lives. This is what makes forgiveness from the heart difficult. It is precisely our hearts that are wounded. We cry out, “You, who I expect to be there for me, you have abandoned me. How can I ever forgive you for that?”

Forgiveness often seems impossible, but nothing is impossible for God. It involves seeing with the eyes of God, with the heart of Christ. It may be the most painful thing to do, to allow the pains of hurt, abandonment, and betrayal just to be. To be in God’s healing presence. We may begin to see through the heart of things, that we inadvertently place our longing for unconditional love in limited, frail human beings. We may begin to see with God’s great compassion that we are all wounded people, that we all long to live deep within the very heart of God, to be God’s Beloved. Being with Jesus forsaken on the Cross, we are not destroyed by our suffering because we suffer with God, in the very heart of God. It is not easy, but Jesus has already and is walking that path with us. With God, all things are possible.

"Lord, help me to forgive all who have hurt me. With whom are you inviting me to begin?”

inspired by Henri Nouwen